External Motivation

As a somewhat optimistic take on last week’s Looking Forward, I’m finding that external factors are failing to motivate me anymore. I’m spending about as much time in all the topics of my classes as my professors would expect, but I’m not spending it in the way my professors are “requiring”. Instead, I am spending time doing the things in those topics that are important to me.

For example: in my voice class, I am spending three (or more) hours per week practicing, instead of writing bullshit reports. In my physics education seminar, I am spending more time with students than is required, instead of doing some of the assigned homework. In my math modeling class, I am doing math modeling in the games I am working on, instead of repeating the well-researched tomography technique. (And in Linguistics and Foundations, I am doing the work that is required, because that stuff is cool)

This makes me feel a lot better about myself, and a lot worse about how school operates. I don’t think that I would stop learning, or even slow down, if I stopped going to school. But what I would be giving up is the environment: as misfit as the system is to me, the professors know their stuff, and sharing their knowledge is really what I enjoy about the environment. So I should rephrase that sentence as “… or even slow down if i stopped taking classes.”. I don’t know what would satisfy me. An apprentice to a professor?

Oh, don’t take this to mean that I will stop taking classes. One of the things that is important to me is to finish my master’s degree. Finishing things is one of the skills I want to develop.

I also have a big problem with the constant juggling that is required from my classes. I am interested in all my classes, but having to worry about proving a lemma to the incompleteness theorem (so, so cool) at the same time as doing an education research project at the same time as putting together a tomography presentation is very stressful. I am not a multitasker.

That was just a brain dump.

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2 thoughts on “External Motivation

  1. I feel much the same way about all the stuff you mentioned: the way schools operate, trying to focus on multiple subject at once. My strength is that when I am really enthusiastic and motivated about a subject, I will learn it very well. Schools don’t encourage or support that kind of learning.

    It’s kind of funny coincidence, but I recently wrote a blog post about Motivation and Structure. In a way it is similar to this post.

  2. Traditional schools, yes. Seymour Papert has an inspiring paper about a idea which uses love (for a project) as a teacher: http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html (the first page is rough, but it starts to flow after that). I have heard a few anecdotes about classes which used this, and apparently they went well. The problem that schools have with implementing this is it is very difficult to control exactly what your students learn, so any attempt at getting everybody on exactly the same page (a common classroom goal) would fail.

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